The Birth Relative Monsters

Today I was directed to a blog post that was inspired by Lea Grove’s Dear Less Than Perfect Mom.  This blog was written by children’s author Kathy Lynn Harris.  Kathy thought that it would be fitting to do her own “adoptive mom” version of “Dear Less Than Perfect Mom.”  For the life of me I cannot understand why we are still, to this day, separating moms into categories like “adoptive mother,” “birth mother,” or “step mother.”  When it all boils down to it, aren’t we all just moms?  Isn’t that part of the point of Lea’s original Huff Post article?  Why do we feel the need to make other mothers who may be on a different path feel “less than” us?  I do recognize that raising an adopted child has its own unique differences and parenting should be done differently, however Kathy only points out the differences in regards to how they affect her, not her adopted child. Anyhow, I found it ironic that Kathy’s blog post was inspired by an article meant to bond women together instead of segregate and tear them apart.

Most of the blog post is really quite heart felt.  It covers the challenges of infertility, becoming an adoptive mother, and raising an adopted child, from her own challenges, of course, not the adopted child.  There is one paragraph that struck a cord with me and it is the reason I decided to make this post.  It reads, “I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.”

At first I was confused.  I thought I had missed something in my prior reading.  Did any foreshadowing lead up to the reasons why an adopted child visiting with their birth relatives may be “shaken” or “confused?”  I back tracked in my reading and found nothing.  Shaken is a pretty hefty word that carries a lot of weight.  People are shaken when they are robbed.  People are shaken when a close friend passes unexpectedly.  Kathy was using this hefty word to compare it to how an adopted child feels after a visit with birth relatives.  I do not live in la-la land.  I know that in some adoption cases, such as foster to adopt with an agreement for contact with birth family, this may very well be the case.  But, there is no reason given for this feeling an adopted child may have in Kathy’s blog post. So, of course, my mind begins to wonder.  

Maybe this has been Kathy’s experience with her own children.  Maybe she is one of those adoptive moms who has the unfortunate experience of having to subject her child to less than desirable birth relatives.  Or maybe Kathy’s lack of education and knowledge about how an open adoption can be done in a healthy way for the child is the cause.  Maybe Kathy is projecting her own feelings of insecurity about her child’s birth relatives onto her child.  I don’t know because she doesn’t say.  But what she doesn’t say also speaks volumes. Every adoptive parent who reads her blog will go over that line and tuck it somewhere in their subconscious.  They will associate their child having a relationship with their birth relatives as something potentially frightening and harmful.  In reality, giving the impression that this is always the case could very well end up being harmful to the adopted child of anyone who reads her blog post. Study after study has concluded that in most cases, where the birth parents would otherwise be fit to raise their own child but have decided not to, it is healthiest for the child to have access to these birth relatives in an appropriate way.  Even in cases where CPS was involved it is still healthiest if birth relatives can maintain appropriate contact with their children. With a few strokes of the keyboard, Kathy has planted the seed in adoptive parent’s minds that this contact is scary and confusing.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I wonder how old Kathy’s child or children are.  I wonder how they have been raised in regards to their adoption.  In one sentence I came to the conclusion that Kathy will probably not be supportive or encourage her child/children to maintain a healthy relationship with their birth relatives.  But then I realized I had also just made an assumption that may not be true. I am hoping that it is just a lack of education about the adopted child that makes Kathy think the way she does.  I encourage her to remove her negative language about birth relatives from her blog post so as not to cause potential harm to the adopted children of the parents who read her blog.

After all is said and done I really can’t blame Kathy as much as the industry itself.  The media, movies, and all over the internet all you see are scary movies about crazy and dangerous birth parents coming to re-claim their adopted children.  It is a stigma that still continues to perpetuate to this day.  I hope that Kathy chooses to edit her blog and not continue to perpetuate the myths and lies about birth relatives.  It hurts the ones who gave life to these children and love them dearly from afar.  It minimizes our pain. It also hurts the children who were given up, taken or surrendered as far as their identity is concerned.  I read somewhere the other day that when you honor the birth parents you honor the adopted child because their identity and very being is part of their birth parents. Kathy, I implore you to honor the birth parents for all the adopted children whose parents may read your post.

If you would like to respectfully give Kathy some insight into her remark you can contact her here or follow my links to her blog post and comment.  Remember to be respectful.  Changing the thinking that has been around for decades will take patience, understanding and education.

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5 thoughts on “The Birth Relative Monsters

  1. I genuinely read (and reread) your post with an open mind, but I can’t find the reason that statement is offensive. I read it in her original blog and really identified with her statement thinking of my own introverted little son, who isn’t adopted, but who, when in large groups of family, is quite shaken and confused by the attention and the stimulation. Could she have meant that it’s a lot for a little one to take in all at once, regardless of biological/adopted/otherwise designated family members focusing their attention all at once in on this little creature? I am not trying to irritate you, but maybe hearing about how it is interpreted from a different point of view will offer you another glimpse into the true meaning of her comment.

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    • That could very well be. However, because the message she is trying to relay is not clear and has been interpreted by at least 2 people 😉 differently, I would hope that she would clarify. She has not returned any of my attempted communication, however so I can only assume she doesn’t intend to clarify her message and will continue to leave it up to interpretation (or misinterpretation). My only hope is that other people going into adoption, or already there, don’t read this and assume birth parents are something their child should be scared of. Many adoptive parents, as well as adopted children, have healthy and happy relationships with first moms.

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      • Agreed. We are in the waiting process, and when we do adopt the birth family will be honored and respected in all interactions, be it on the phone, in person, etc. In fact, I think research is pretty clear that adopted children who know their roots and have either yearly visits or correspondence with birth families are very well adjusted and understanding of how their story began. After reading your comment, it did strike me that the language she used really was poor word choice. I don’t think she had ill intent but her phrasing sent a message that could be interpreted in several ways. Birth parents should not be depicted as scary or confusing (unless they actually are, different story).

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  2. Hello there. I’m the author of the post you’re addressing here. I haven’t received any messages from you before I saw your link in the comments section of my Huffington Post cross-post. So this is my first opportunity to respond. Please know that it was never my intention to hurt anyone with my words or to ever imply that birth parents are scary. It’s difficult to write something so close to my heart and step back enough to see how a word choice could be misconstrued by someone in another part of the world with a different life experience. Ah, the beauty of the Internet, right?

    My son is in elementary school and we have a close relationship with his birthmom and her family. He loves them, we love them, and we see them a couple of times a year and talk on the phone and email often, too. We have a very healthy relationship and in fact I think what we have is a model of what an open adoption should look like on many levels. Our kiddo is and feels loved by many, many people. It’s awesome!

    But he is still a child. A sensitive child who doesn’t have adult-level coping skills yet. He looks forward to birth family visits, but each visit does bring up emotions and questions. The visits often leave him tired (it’s a lot of attention and a lot of questions and a lot of emotion) and confused about how to process his life story. The word “shaken” can be defined as “tottering or unsteady” and visits can leave him unsteady for a few hours or a few days. I think that’s pretty normal.

    So, that’s our story and my response. I hope it helps you understand my point of view. My post was written from an authentic place, to simply honor the unique experiences many adoptive moms may face, and I’m really sorry if it offended you or any birth parent out there. Truly!

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  3. I see you adoptive mother, making me bury my feelings because yours are more important than mine; I see you manipulating me, making me feel guilty for asking about my adoption. I see you adoptive mother, trying to turn me into your clone, making me believe my worth is tied to what I can do for other people. I see you adoptive mother, pushing me away because I dared to want a relationship with my biological family. I see you adoptive mother, refusing to come to my wedding because I invited my biological mother and siblings. I see you adoptive mother, getting so bent out of shape because you were referred to as my adoptive mother in an interview I did about my reunion. I see you adoptive mother, trying to guilt trip me yet again into falling at your feet and begging forgiveness and reassuring you that you are my only mother. I see you adoptive mother, and I see you natural mother, and only one of you has loved me unconditionally and never made me feel guilty for my own feelings.

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